A clear-eyed critique, by noted military historian Neillands (Eighth Army, 2004, etc.), of the Allied command and its decisions and indecisions in the last half of 1944.
This is a book of battle, including some of the best-known of the European Theater, including the Bulge and Arnhem Bridge. But the author is more concerned with the high command, and he finds the often-denigrated Bernard Montgomery in better form than many historians—particularly American ones—allow. Neillands observes that Montgomery pressed hard, after the Normandy landing, to be allowed to lead an invasion of Germany from the northwest, advancing through Belgium and Holland and storming the Ruhr Valley. Eisenhower, the supreme Allied commander, countered with a strategy that involved taking both the Ruhr and the Saar at once, a plan that required the Germans to fall back, not regroup, and not fight with their customary ferocity. It was all of a piece, Neillands charges, with Eisenhower’s history of poor decisions and apparent lack of understanding that it was logistics that would win the war—and in 1944, the Allied supply lines were stretched dangerously thin. “Montgomery’s narrow thrust to the Rhine and the Ruhr was logistically possible,” Neillands argues, whereas the broader-front attack was fraught with peril. Still, the American commanders were publicity hounds keenly attuned to the whims of the press and the public at home, and they demanded that the British take the back seat; in the same spirit, the author writes, American histories to this day tend to overplay British failures while ignoring American ones, including Omar Bradley’s failure to support the U.S. infantry landing on D-Day and “the cock-up in command that prevented the 82nd Division from either taking the Nijmegen bridge . . . or avoiding a frontal attack across the Waal in borrowed boats three days later.”
The closing months of WWII, then, from the British point of view—one little known here, and worth knowing about.